(Washington, D.C.) – On Wednesday this week, NASCSP hosted an event in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). Sponsored by Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Congressman David McKinley (R-WV), the event featured presenters from the Department of Energy, State weatherization professionals, and clients of WAP services.
NASCSP executive Director Jenae Bjelland kicked off the event recounting the WAP’s humble beginning and subsequent growth into a nationwide program. “The WAP began as a small initiative in the state of Maine. It became a federal program in 1976 and today operates in all 50 states, D.C., 5 territories, and 3 Native American tribes”. Bjelland next introduced Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), two of the WAP’s most vocal champions in Congress.
Congressman Tonko stressed that the WAP not only saves families money each month, but also improves families’ health and wellbeing. “For 40 years the WAP has promoted social, economic, and environmental justice,” said Congressman Tonko. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) noted the WAP’s importance in the context of broader clean energy policy. “For four decades, WAP has helped low-income families make their homes safer and more energy efficient,” said Senator Coons. “This is an example of good public policy: by showing that clean energy and economic growth are not mutually exclusive. WAP creates jobs and provides vital assistance to those who most need safe, clean, and energy efficient housing.”
Three officials from the Department of Energy also presented at the event. Dr. Lynn Orr, Undersecretary for Science and Energy, and David Friedman, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, detailed the Weatherization Assistance Program’s 40 year record of success: the weatherization of over 7.4 million homes, the creation of thousands of jobs, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Dave Rinebolt, the Director of the WAP at DOE, reiterated the program’s critical impact on lowering a family’s energy burden- the percentage of disposable income paid towards energy.
The audience also heard from Virginia State WAP Manager and NASCSP board member Willie Fobbs, who outlined the role of states in implementing DOE program regulations and quality control standards. Bill Beachy of the CHP Energy Solutions training center in Christiansburg, Virginia also highlighted the cutting edge training network that ensures that the WAP workforce is highly skilled in state-of-the-art weatherization techniques. NASCSP Energy Services director Ray Judy also highlighted the weatherization workforce saying, “The WAP network is filled with passionate professionals who as we speak are climbing into attics in 90 degree heat or working on their backs in crawlspaces.”
Finally, the event gave a glimpse of the life changing potential of the WAP. Kelly Fonteijn, a recipient of WAP Services from the state of Washington, traveled to D.C. to tell her story. Kelly recounted freezing winters in her home requiring her and her children to wear thick wool clothing and to huddle around a gas fireplace. After her home was weatherized, the comfort of Kelly’s home improved drastically and she reports saving at least $250 per year on her utility bills. Kelly’s experience with the WAP was so positive that she began volunteering with the local Community Action Agency that weatherized her home. Through a video testimonial put together by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, the attendees of the event were also able to hear from two families in Indiana whose lives were positively impacted by the Weatherization Assistance Program.